Miaw Yuan Chan Lin Cave Temple, Ipoh

Ipoh is known for its gorgeous cave temples, and there are many tucked within the state’s beautiful limestone hills. Some of the more well known ones include Kek Lok Tong and Kwan Yin Tong, which are popular with tourists. There are also many smaller ones that are slightly off the beaten path, like the Miaw Yuan Chan Lin Cave Temple.

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We stumbled upon this place entirely by accident while looking for another attraction nearby. I can see why it’s not on the radar of the usual tourist hotspots – it’s a little out of the way, and to get there you have to go through a housing area and a small dirt road. We were actually a little confused as to whether this was the tourist attraction we were looking for (Qin Xin Ling), because there weren’t any signs! With not many visitors, the temple grounds were tranquil, shaded from the sun by a large outcropping of rock. I believe they also have facilities for those looking for a meditation retreat, as there were showers and what looked like rooms for guests.

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A shrine with a very realistic, larger-than-life sculpture of a monk. As the temple is dedicated to Thai-Buddhism, there are many Thai elements to its design, such as naga figures and the use of gold.

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The main area, tucked within the limestone cave. The inside was extremely cooling, and you can hear the steady dripping of water from the stalactites.

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(Right) A sleeping figure of Buddha carved into the limestone; a colourful painting of deity (?) in blue next to it; joss sticks and offerings

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Further in was a golden laughing Buddha statue which was surrounded by water, which devotees can use for ablution, as well as a colourful shrine decorated with neon lights, housing seven Buddhas with different postures (one for each day of the week – a common sight in Thai Buddhist temples).

If you’re looking for a quiet temple away from the crowds, or if you’re on the way to the Qin Xin Ling attraction, the Miaw Yun Chan Lin Cave Temple is worth a visit.

MIAW YUN CHAN LIN TEMPLE  

22, Persiaran Pinggir Rapat 5a, Rapat Setia, 31350 Ipoh, Negeri Perak

Food Review: Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong, Ipoh – Soft-Boiled Eggs On Toast

In recent years, Ipoh has enjoyed a boom in tourism – especially over the holidays – and  Jalan Bijih Timah in the center of Old Town is where everyone flocks to for food and sightseeing. I’ve blogged about two famous restos, namely Nam Heong & Sin Yoon Loong (famous for their egg tarts and Ipoh white coffee, respectively) but today we will be checking out the third which completes what I call the Holy Trinity of legendary old-school kopitiams in the area lol.

Enter, Kedai Kopi Sun Yuan Foong. 

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We were in Ipoh for the Chinese New Year holidays, and the place was absolutely packed, so much so that when we passed by the chee cheong fun stall in front, they had stopped taking orders to allow for them to fulfill existing ones first.

After hovering like hawks over this table that looked like they were almost done with their food, we managed to secure seats in a small corner at the back.

Like NM & SYL, SYF has its own ‘specialty’ – soft boiled eggs on toast. Eggs are prepped in batches in the kitchen, while the toast/sandwiches are prepped at a stall next to the dining area. Poor guy was obviously overwhelmed by the surge of orders, and told us quite frankly that it would take some time. Since we had come all the way, we decided to wait.

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Hot Milo tastes better in these classic ceramic cups! 🙂

PS: SYF is also famed for their White Coffee, an Ipoh specialty where the beans are roasted in margarine and the subsequent brew added with condensed milk for a rich and sweet flavour. Didn’t get that because I just had white coffee the day before at another place lol.

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Past the 20-minute mark, the stomach protested, so we hopped on out to a makeshift stall on the verandah for some snacks. There was Malay steamed cake (the fluffy brown cake in the steamer), yam cake and an assortment of fried goodies and baked pastries. We got some fried shrimp cakes but they were meh-tasting and rock solid.

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Our orders finally arrived.

Just look at the jiggly goodness of those soft boiled eggs on top of the toast! This is another one of Ipoh’s famous dishes, as I have never seen eggs on toast like this anywhere else in Malaysia. You sprinkle a bit of pepper/soy sauce on top, break the eggs and watch as the yolk oozes all over the crunchy, buttered toast. Few things in life bring as much pleasure as this hmm

The sausages were fat and juicy, and pretty sizable as well.

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A hearty breakfast for RM10.

SUN YUAN FOONG 

17, Jalan Bandar Timah, 30000 Ipoh, Perak

Opening hours: 7AM – 5PM (daily)

 

DNS Kacang Puteh, Buntong Ipoh – Delightful Malaysian Indian Snacks

Before popcorn made its way to the masses in Malaysia, our parents and grandparents would have gone to the movie theater with a small white paper cone in hand. Inside, you’ll find an assortment of fried chickpeas, nuts, crisps and crunchy flour snacks flavoured with curry powder or other spices. This, ladies and gents, was kacang puteh. 

Although we don’t have it at the movies anymore, kacang puteh has solidified its status as a perennial Malaysian favourite. Just like how Malaysians are made up of different races and religions, it’s difficult to pinpoint one particular ‘type’ of kacang puteh, because they come in all shapes, flavours, colours and sizes.

Kampong Kacang Puteh in Ipoh is supposedly where it all began.

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Dating back at least four generations, the businesses were founded by Indian families who came to then British-ruled Malaya in the late 19th century. To supplement their income, they ran small shops selling snacks. Many of these items originate from southern India, such as Murukku, Pakkoda and Omapodi, but the shops today offer a wide assortment of locally-inspired flavours as well, such as tapioca chips and ice gem biscuits.

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Every time we come back to Ipoh, we buy a buttload to bring home and/or give away to friends and colleagues. There are several shops in town, but we often go to this one called D.N.S. Food. 

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Signs in multiple languages. The stuff is halal too so Muslim customers can enjoy them.

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In Malay we call it ‘rambang mata’ ie ‘cross eyed’ because there are just too many types to choose from! My favourites are the fish murukku and the wheel-shaped snack that has no name lol but every Malaysian kid growing up in the 90s knows of.

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If you’re buying in bulk, get these giant sacks of kacang puteh and eat to your heart’s content.

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A small corner selling Indian sweets. I like them in small amounts because their desserts are just wayyyyy too sweet.

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Very reasonable prices.

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Nicely packed and sealed.

They’re not too expensive; you can get a big packet for a reasonable price. The next time you’re in Ipoh, be sure to stop by this area for your kacang puteh fix!

DNS Kacang Putih 

No.46 Laluan Sungai Pari 4 Kampong Kacang Putih 30100 Ipoh Perak

Phone: 013-464 7483

Food Review: Classic Hainanese Chicken Chop @ Yut Sun Restaurant, Taiping

When the Hainanese people migrated out of China in search of better opportunities during the early 19th century, they brought their cooking style with them. Hainanese cuisine quickly gained popularity throughout Southeast Asia, blending with local customs, ingredients and culture to form unique dishes that can only be found in this region.

The Hainanese chicken chop, for example, traces its roots back to British Malaya, and as such, can only be found in Malaysia/Singapore (you won’t find it in Hainan!). It combines the best of Eastern and Western flavours, and features a battered chicken chop, deep fried and drenched in a pea/onion gravy sauce.

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Yut Sun is a household name in Taiping, frequented by locals of all races. It’s charming to see how the place retains its small town charm, where everyone dines and chats in a relaxed, no-frills setting, a far cry from big cities.

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Dining area is spacious and airy, spanning two shoplots. No air conditioning, but the design of pre-war homes is such that the high ceiling helps with ventilation and keeps the building cool even in sweltering hot weather.

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Very ‘old school kopitiam’ feel: marble top round tables, wooden chairs, tiled walls and flooring.

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There are several Hainanese specialties on the menu, but the whole fam opted for the signature Hainanese Chicken Chop (RM10), which featured a whole battered chicken fillet, drenched in an onion/pea/mixed vegetable sauce and a side of potato wedges. Everything was excellent, from the flavours which melded together beautifully, to the perfectly cooked, tender chicken fillet with its savoury crust that was almost like a second skin.

I love gravy. I think it’s underrated in Malaysia (for some reason, Malaysians don’t have the same appreciation for gravy as the Brits. I drenched everything in gravy when I was studying in the UK because it was so readily available). The version here did not disappoint, and had me mopping up every last drop with the chicken meat. My only qualm is that I wish that the portion had been bigger, because one plate was definitely not enough!

Yut Sun Restaurant 

78 & 80, Jalan Pasar, 34000, Taiping, Perak, Malaysia

Opening hours: 8AM – 7PM (closed on Sundays)

Tel: +6058083250

*pork free

 

 

 

Taiping Zoo & Night Safari, Perak – One Of the Best Zoos In Malaysia

I’ve been to a couple of zoos. I know some people say it’s cruel to keep them in cages, which I agree with, but there are also those who argue in favour that the animals are well cared for and safe. Admittedly, there are zoos that are in terrible conditions and are literal hell holes, which should be shut down ASAP, but a well kept zoo can act as a sanctuary and a place to educate future generations on the importance of conservation.

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One of these is the Taiping Zoo and Night Safari in Taiping, Perak, an hour’s drive from Ipoh. Located within the sprawling Taiping Lake Gardens over an area of 34 acres, it was established in 1961 and as such, is the oldest zoo in Malaysia.

Currently, the zoo houses over 1,300 animals from 180 species. During the day, it acts like a regular zoo, but at night, it turns into a night safari where visitors can stroll through the park and view exhibits lit up by soft, stimulated ‘moon’ light.

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Entrance is RM17 for adults (inclusive of GST) and RM8.50 for children. Considering that Zoo Negara charges a whopping RM40++, I think this is a reasonable price. It was a public holiday during our visit, and the place was crowded with tourists and families, mostly locals.

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Note: The zoo is massive.

If you have older people or children in your group, I strongly suggest taking one of the passenger trams. The driver-cum-guide will talk visitors through the different exhibits during the tram ride.

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The first thing visitors will notice upon entering the zoo grounds is how green it is. There are loads of trees which provide shade, and it seems like they’ve designed the zoo around the jungle-like landscape, to stimulate a natural habitat as much as possible. There are a few that feature concrete enclosures, but these are few and far between. The natural setting means that it is sometimes difficult to locate animals hiding behind the foliage.

My dad proved adept at this, often spotting the creatures before any of us could see them.

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It was very warm and sunny. While the trees are shady, they aren’t planted all along the route, so be prepared with some sunscreen.

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The chimpanzee enclosure had a group of five or six animals. They congregated in the shade in a circle, before moving to the trees and tall structures to swing about. Their limbs were immensely long in proportion to their slim bodies, and I was reminded of the film The Planet of the Apes (which by the way, I think they did a great job at capturing the mannerisms and movements of these magnificent great apes).

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A member of the troupe picking bananas out of the stream.

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The three orangutans were equally fascinating. The one on the bottom sat on the stream’s edge, using the leaf as a scoop to ladle water onto itself.

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It even used the leaf as a face wipe!

The other two moved further back for some sexy time. The larger, I assume male orangutan beckoned for the smaller one to follow it, stopping and looking back to wait for the latter to catch up. It was a gesture that was extremely human. They then frolicked and tumbled in the grass in a heap.

It makes me sad that these creatures are poached and mistreated. But then again, human beings are capable of doing worse things to our own kind, let alone other species.

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Another natural-looking enclosure, complete with small pond.

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A civet cat resting in the shade. Its colouration and pattern blended so well with the forest floor, I couldn’t spot it right off the bat, even though it was sitting right under my nose.

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Large crocodiles measuring at least 2 meters long

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Porcupines.

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A lot of walking. What I think the zoo could benefit from would be more seats for people to rest on along the way.

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Bambi

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Wild boars.

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The lion enclosure, which had a moat surrounding it. Too small for camera to make out but there were two lionesses and a lion within the cave-like structure.

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More deers resting in the shade.

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An aviary, filled with stork-like birds and huge fruit bats. No fences here aside from the net surrounding the dome, but I doubt the animals would come very close to visitors.

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The African savannah area which housed two giraffes and zebras.

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Black panther. Wakanda forever.

You can still see the spotted pattern in spite of its melanin-rich coating, which is what gives the animal its black sheen.

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A rare Asian gold cat. Very beautiful, elegant creature, from its sleek coat to the feline way it moves. Sadly, the species, native to Southeast Asia, is threatened by rapid development and deforestation in many parts of the region.

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Lonely black swan in the pond.

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Several rhinos chillin’

If there is one exhibit that I feel could see improvements, it’d be the Asian elephant exhibit. There were no trees in the enclosure, and the poor creatures were forced to stand under the baking hot sun. One of the elephants went into the pond and submerged itself in a bid to escape the heat. I saw that there were several dead tree stumps in the compound, and wondered if perhaps the elephants had stripped the plant down to its bark, leaving the place bare. Still, management should look at a way to provide them with at least some form of shade.

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All in all, we spent close to four hours exploring the place.

I was impressed by how well maintained the zoo is, as most animals looked well fed and healthy. The zoo’s overall design mimics a natural setting as much as possible, which I think is better than having the animals in concrete enclosures. If you’re looking for an educational place to take the family and little ones while in Taiping, I suggest paying this a visit.

TAIPING ZOO & NIGHT SAFARI 

 Jalan Taman Tasik Taiping, Taman Tasik Taiping, 34000 Taiping, Perak

Operating hours: 8AM – 11PM (daily)

Tickets: Adults (RM17), Children (RM8.50)

zootaiping.gov.my

CNY 2018 in Ipoh – Qing Xin Ling Cultural Village / Reunion Dinner Night

I like Ipoh.

It’s much more laid-back than Kuala Lumpur, the people are nice and friendly, and most importantly (for me at least) there’s plenty of good food. But because I come here so often (parents are from Ipoh), I’ve run out of new places to visit lol.

While Googling, I stumbled upon a place called Qing Xin Ling Cultural Village, which literally translates to ‘Forest of Tranquility’. Since we had lots of time to kill before the reunion dinner, the fam and I drove to Gunung Rapat, about 20 minutes from Ipoh town center, to check it out.

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Qing Xin Ling is sandwiched between two cave temples, namely Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong. Unfortunately, the cultural village area, which encompasses a lake and a park, was CLOSED :(((. Spoke to a local there and he said it had been closed for some time now, due to complaints from residents living in the housing estate nearby. Owing to its popularity as a tourist destination, buses had been coming by the loads at all times of the day, ruining the roads and causing a disturbance in the otherwise quiet neighbourhood.

Since we couldn’t go in, we contented ourselves to visiting the Buddhist/Taoist temple and hall just outside the park. The ground floor leading to a community hall area was flanked by four large statues, elaborately carved and decked out in gold colours. Judging from their fierce expressions, I would guess they are door gods or guardians of the temple.

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Nothing much on the ground floor except a small library with religious books/CDs that you can take home, in exchange for donations to the temple. They also have an office of sorts and a counselling centre, which was closed for the Lunar New Year. The volunteer on duty suggested we head upstairs, where we found a spacious prayer hall. The floor of the hall is made from a fragrant type of hardwood with a sweet and pleasant smell.

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Beautiful lotus-shaped lights threw dancing rays of light across the walls and ceiling, which were painted over to resemble vast blue sky and clouds. Lining the walls were colourful depictions of deities.

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The main altar with Buddha, flanked by the Goddess of Mercy as well as several other deities. The hall was warm though so we didn’t spend much time inside.

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Lunch time at Ipoh Parade.

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Went back to rest at my cousin’s place. He just moved into a new apartment (one of the few high rise buildings that are slowly but surely springing up all over Ipoh) and the balcony view was awesome! One can see the layers of limestone hills forming a ring around the city.

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3-bedroom setup with 2 bathrooms. The apartment also had the usual facilities such as a small swimming pool, gym and sauna room.

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Reunion dinner that night was at the paternal family’s house.

If you are unaware of Chinese customs, reunion dinner night and the first day of the Lunar New Year are traditionally spent with the father’s side of the family. Daughters who have married only return to visit their own families on the second day or later. In modern times, people are more relaxed about this rule but our fam still practices it.

The day starts early for my Sar Kor (Hokkien for third aunt), who is the only one among my father’s siblings that inherited my grandmother’s cooking prowess. She’s 70 this year, and still singlehandedly prepares most of the food for my entire clan of aunties, uncles and cousins. While the rest of the fam living in other states travel to Ipoh in the morning, she’ll be busy cooking away in the kitchen.

Everyone is usually there by late afternoon, when ancestor worship takes place. The ancestral tablets for my grandparents as well as my great grandfather sit alongside the Buddhist and Taoist deity statues that my fam prays to. Sar Kor will lay out a portion of the food that has been prepped, whereby everyone takes turns to offer joss-sticks. Once that’s done, it’s chill time till dinner time.

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We didn’t used to have Yee Sang for our reunion dinner, until the last couple of years. I used to think this dish was meh but it has really grown on me.

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Delectable spread of home cooking!

In Chinese culture, dishes for festive occasions are often steeped in symbolism. Since the Lunar New Year marks new beginnings, there is always fish for abundance and shrimp for laughter and happiness – the reason being that the words are homonyms. Fish – Yu (abundance) and Shrimp – Ha (sound of laughter). Also, these two seafood ingredients were expensive back in the day and therefore were considered a luxurious treat that many might only be able to have once a year.

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Some dishes are a nod to our Hokkien roots, like salted vegetable and duck soup (which my dad absolutely adores), but there are also are also a few Nyonya specialties that were handed down from my grandma, who learnt most of her cooking from a Nyonya neighbour. These include jiuhuchar (jicama and yambean), lor bak (stuffed beancurd rolls with five spice powder).

Had a great time stuffing my face  catching up with the fam, and left completely stuffed. It’s always nice to eat home cooking!

How did you spend reunion dinner night ?

 

Food Review: Kedai Kopi Keng Nam, Ipoh – Curry Chee Cheong Fun, Pulut, Yong Liew And More!

**Writing this at 11PM on a Sunday – it’s going to be a busy week ahead and I doubt I’ll have time to blog, so I’m squeezing this in to post later 😛

Hey guys! And to my fellow Chinese friends, a Happy Lunar New Year! The LNY celebrations last for 15 days, but many of us in Malaysia have already returned to work after a week-long break. Mine lasted just five days because the office didn’t take additional days off, but it was well spent in my parents hometown of Ipoh, Perak.

Set off from KL at 5AM and arrived just shy of 8AM. Time for some food huntin’.

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One of the most popular breakfast joints in Ipoh is Kedai Kopi Keng Nam, famed for their glutinous rice (lor mai farn) that is served with curry chicken or kaya (coconut jam). We were surprised to find that the place was open, even on Lin 30 Man (literally ‘night of the 30th’ – the day before the Lunar New Year), as some businesses will be closed in preparation for reunion dinner. As expected, place was packed to the brim but we managed to secure seats inside.

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Typical kopitiam setting; seats tightly packed together, extremely noisy, heat and smoke wafting from the stalls.

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The chee cheong fun (glutinous rice rolls) in Ipoh is notably different from anywhere else in Malaysia. In KL you get the version with sweet sauce, served with assorted fried goodies, while in Penang it is served with dark sauce and shrimp paste. Ipoh’s spin features either curry (above), served with pig skin, or a mild, savoury mushroom sauce.

Personally, I feel that Ipoh chee cheong fun is the best! The one at Keng Nam did not disappoint – the rolls were smooth with a slight springiness to the texture, complemented well by the mild curry sauce and bouncy pig skin.

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Moo had a simple chicken noodle soup from one of the stalls that also serves curry noodles.

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Keng Nam is perhaps best known for its glutinous rice (pulut/lor mai farn). You can choose to have it savoury, with chicken curry, or with kaya. I like the one with kaya, but the curry isn’t bad too: rich, creamy and very filling. The rice has a wonderful stickiness to it.

Another famous Ipoh dish: yong liew or assorted fried/stuffed goodies. I don’t think there is a proper English description for it, but they encompass items like beancurd and vegetables that are stuffed with fish paste and then boiled/deep fried, as well as fishballs and meatballs. My dad’s favourite is the sar kot (jicama), mixed with fish paste, wrapped in bean curd skin and then deep fried.

The ones served here were good, although I wish the auntie hadn’t put the fried items in the soup coz it made them all soggy.

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To wash it all down, one cannot miss the famous Ipoh white coffee. Icy cold, sweet and refreshing.

Kedai Kopi Keng Nam
127, Jalan Raja Ekram,
30300 Ipoh, Perak

Business hours: 6 – 11AM (daily)
Phone:+605 255 7328

Sun Marpoh Resturant, Ipoh

It is said that on average, a person gains 2-4kgs over the festive period. I whole heartedly agree. It seems like I’ve been doing nothing but stuffing my face since I came back to Ipoh for Chinese New Year. Many families prefer eating out on subsequent days after reunion dinner night, and my fam was no exception. Most places were booked out, but we managed to find a spot at Sun Marpoh Restaurant in Ipoh Garden. For lunch, they had set meals for 10pax going from RM398++ onwards. Our group opted for the RM428 set.

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More Yee Sang. I think this is the fifth or sixth Yee Sang I’ve had so far, including the ones I tried for food reviews at work. After awhile, one does get jaded… but the version here was decent. Fresh ingredients and well-balanced taste.

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The curry prawns were sizable, and the creamy curry was great to go with rice. There was enough for everyone to take a few pieces.

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Lemongrass fried chicken. Flavour was good but a little too oily.

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Other dishes: steamed patin, pumpkin tofu with bokchoy (which was excellent!), stir-fried mixed vegetables and Guinness pork ribs (least favourite dish, tasted weird to me).  All in all, it was value for money and portions were good enough that everyone got to eat their fill, but not too much that there were a lot of leftovers.

SUN MARPOH 

67-69, Jalan Lau Pak Khuan, Ipoh Garden, 31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Business hours : Open daily – 11.30AM-3PM, 5.30-10PM

Phone:+60 5-545 5127